Sunday, February 23, 2014

Go Irish! Contarf 1014 Irish Whiskey

The tag line on this blog is "The ridiculous pursuit of Bourbon (...and other whiskies)" and in the other whiskies column would sit Irish whiskey.  I've slowly added numerous expressions of Irish whiskey to the bunker over the last couple of years.

Full disclosure, this review is from a sample received from the PR firm representing Castle Brands which distributes Clontarf.  The fact sheet indicates the whiskey comes from Dublin which would mean distillation is most likely from Irish Distillers Group (Jameson). 

The Gaelic spelling of Clontarf is Cluain Tarbh meaning “Bulls' Meadow.” It refers to an area north of Dublin where a famous and decisive battle – the Battle of Clontarf - between the Irish, under the leadership of High King Brian Boru, and the Vikings, took place in 1014. 

Ireland at the time was heavily forested, rural and rich in natural resources. Large parts of the island that historically had been divided up among many fractious clans were controlled by the
High King (the Ard Ri) named Brian Boru. There were also coast trading cities, such as Dublin and Limerick, built and controlled by the Vikings. And there were some rebellious Irish allies who were against the High King. Boru took them all on and routed the Vikings in a bloody conflict. He himself was killed at the conclusion of the battle, however, the Vikings mostly left Ireland after the battle, hence the pride felt by the Irish in subsequent centuries for this historic victory. 

Clontarf 1014 is a blended Irish making up ten percent pot stilled single malt whiskey; the rest of the blend is a combination of pot stilled and column stilled grain whiskey.  Whiskey is aged 4 years in bourbon casks.  Color is very pale and the viscosity is thin in nature.  On entry, the profile starts off sweet and malty but then turns grainy exhibiting its youth.  Keep in mind that the climate in Ireland is much different than KY when aging whiskey.  The more moderate and wet climate means the whiskey does not age as aggressively as say Bourbon or Rye whiskey.  Additionally, I don't know if first or re-fill bourbon casks are used.  My guess would be re-fill casks as there is little barrel influence in the profile.  The finish is short and just a tad bitter. 

Castle brands recommends this be enjoyed neat, with a dash of water, on the rocks or mixed with ginger ale or ginger beer.  My recommendations is don't add water or ice.  At 80 proof it's already a very easy sipper and adding more water doesn't make sense.  

As a whiskey, it's light and easy to drink and at about $20 this is one for the bar or to share among friends.  As I say in all my posts where I get samples provided to me, I call it the way I see (or drink) it and this one will get the same consideration.  For me, not one I would carry in my bunker as it's simply too light and young a whiskey.  Taste being subjective, others may find this is what they're looking for.  

In the coming week, I'll be adding three more reviews from Castle Brands; Knappogue Castle 12 year, 14 year single malt twin wood, and 16 year single malt sherry finish.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

BOLO Old Grand Dad 114

Readers of this blog know that I do a lot of personal barrel picks and that tends to be my focus in many of my posts.  Because of this I don't write much about off the shelf offerings but that's because I really don't buy that many plus there are many other bloggers that write about regular offerings.

I won't provide a review of Old Grand Dad 114 at his time but I did want to alert readers to be on the lookout for the latest batch of ODG114.  Specifically, the 2012 and 2013 releases have been much better than previous releases.  I can't speak as to why but many of my fellow enthusiasts are talking about this bourbon and commenting on the quality of the pour.  In order to find out the bottling year, flip the bottle over and look for a 12 or 13 in the upper right corner of the bottom.  I managed to find another 2012 bottle yesterday and picked it up for $22; what a deal.

This bourbon is a great drinker, full of flavor and the proof is really under control.  I've already killed off one bottle but I've bunkered 5 others so I can enjoy this for years to come.

3/28/15:  Rumors abound that this offering may be changing.  I have friends that are buying this stuff by the case.  In some markets it's less than $20, especially with a case discount.  Change or not, the OGD114 has become quite popular.  I was in SC in Feb. and visited a very large liquor store and besides Weller products missing from the shelves, ODG114 was sold out as well.  Since the original post, I went ahead and picked up 5 more bottles.  Why not?  On sales it's $22 and a great multi use bourbon.

Exam-o-dram Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2013

I'll start off like I've done in previous reviews by acknowledging that the sample I am reviewing comes from the marketing firm representing Four Roses.  I reviewed products from this firm before and have provided both favorable and unfavorable reviews so I have no allegiance to the source of this sample.  Long readers of this blog know I call it the way I see it.

Now, down to the review.  Once again Four Roses picks and bottles a winner, at least the sample that I reviewed.  It's no secret I'm a fan of Four Roses as I've been picking private barrels from them for a number of years.  I think Jim Rutledge is doing a fantastic job as Master Distiller and his selection for the 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch is yet further evidence.

I find this release to be better than previous editions.  The age blend in this release is very compelling making up two 13 year and one 18 year bourbons using three recipes that encompass OBSV (high rye), OBSK (high rye) and OESK (low rye).  Pre-release review put the bottling proof at 110 but the bottles that I have are at 51.6% or 103.2 proof.

At first sip this is a very elegant whiskey full of flavor and lasting viscosity.  As the bourbon hits the palate the spice is right up front and leans toward baking spices reminding me of Christmas cake with cloves and cinnamon.  The mouthfeel is creamy and at mid palate ripe fruits of berries and tropical fruit pop up.  The finish is very pleasant and moderately long with a lingering of moderate oak and and dark chocolate covered fruit.

There were approximately 8,000 bottles released.  I managed two grab two before they disappeared.  If you can find this on the shelves, I would suggest you grab a bottle.  This release is a real winner.